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Pineal Region Tumors

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Symptoms of a Pineal Region Tumor

A brain tumor in the pineal region causes symptoms based on what brain system or structure it’s interrupting. Most commonly, these tumors block the flow of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), causing a condition call hydrocephalus. Less frequently, it may put pressure on adjacent brain tissue. Even though the pineal gland secretes melatonin, hormonal abnormalities are not found in patients with pineal region tumors.

A pineal region tumor that blocks the flow of CSF causes hydrocephalus, which will in turn cause:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Confusion or developmental delay
  • Increased head circumference (in children younger than age 3)

A tumor that presses against the upper brainstem may cause symptoms that include:

  • Visual changes (double vision, abnormal eye movement)
  • Problems with balance or walking

Germ cell tumors of the pineal region will sometimes involve the hypothalamus and cause hormone disruptions, leading to symptoms that include:

  • Water imbalance (diabetes insipidus)
  • Slowed growth

Because all these symptoms can be caused by more than one condition, it’s important to get an accurate diagnosis as quickly as possible (see Diagnosing and Treating a Pineal Region Tumor).

Keep in mind, of course, that not all children who have headaches have brain tumors — pineal region tumors are quite rare, as are all pediatric brain tumors. Start with your child’s pediatrician, and if there’s any reason to suspect a neurological condition ask for a referral to a major brain and spine center (see Doctors Who Treat Pediatric Brain Tumors).

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Reviewed by: Caitlin Hoffman, M.D.
Last reviewed/last updated: June 2017